MOON KNIGHT // s01

More of an archeological adventure with superhero elements than a straight superhero show.

Definitely draws some influence from the 90s version of The Mummy, and the globe-trotting adventures of National Treasure and Indiana Jones. As such, it feels very disconnected from the rest of the MCU, but this only works to its own benefit.

Oscar Isaac is really giving everything to his performance, split between two distinct personalities at odds with one another while in the service of the Egyptian god of vengeance.

It’s this focus on character, while using the capes and magic stuff as set dressing, that puts this a cut above the rest. It’s short too, coming in at just six episodes, so it packs everything in without overstaying its welcome.

No prior knowledge of any other Marvel stuff required, just a fun standalone little adventure. Hopefully more of the Disney+ shows work to this kind of structure.

DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS (2022)

Messy and weird, with Sam Raimi’s fingerprints all over it.

Yep, Marvel finally actually let a director push out against the edges of its age rating. It’s got weird camera angles, honest-to-goodness horror, and actual gore! This is absolutey the least kid-friendly of any MCU—at times genuinely disturbing and frightening.

At its best when it’s at its most Raimi. Some really fun and creative sequences, mostly packed into the back half. Suffers from some pretty blunt exposition and clunky dialogue, but it’s aiming right for that sweet spot of hammy and cheesy, and mostly lands. It’s kinda schlocky!

As a multiverse film it’s… surprisingly underwhelming? But coming off the back of the absolutely exceptional masterpiece that is Everything Everywhere All At Once, any multiverse film is going to feel lacking. There’s the usual rollout of Marvel cameos and teases, but here it doesn’t feel so much like an obligatory setup for the next set of films as it does an excuse for some ridiculously violent action sequences spiced up with fan service. Honestly, I wasn’t blown away by the four or five big cameo appearances (beware spoilers online!), but it also didn’t feel like it was trying to drop them as gotchas so I kind of appreciated that. Ends up meaning far less for the MCU going forward than I was expecting, but that’s actually good?

Overall, a big fun carnival ride. It’s different enough from standard superhero fare, while also feeling like a distinctly superhero film. Danny Elfman’s score really elevates it into this too, and there’s a few sequences with really fun use of music in the action.

Deviation from MCU norms mean that it won’t be for everyone, but those out-there moments are when it really shines. I’m curious to know how successful it’ll be, given the focus on horror elements, and I’m glad they actually took a chance in this direction for once.

Recommended.

THE NORTHMAN (2022)

Strap in boys, new hypermasculine ideal just dropped.

A bloody, visually stunning Nordic revenge epic.

As much as Eggers’ previous masterpiece (2019’s The Lighthouse) was a thesis on masculinity, this is all of that dialled up past eleven. This particular time and place in the world is more brutal and cruel, and so the protagonist must match it on all fronts in order to exact his revenge.

Alexander Skarsgård is a terrifying presence throughout; absolutely enormous, animalistic and violent—not so much a human as he is an archetype, an icon.

While it’s mythic and blunt, there is still an elegance and economy to The Northman that sets it above and beyond a standard action flick. It feels incredibly tangible and authentic, even when dabbling in mysticism and legend.

Astoundingly well shot, brilliantly performed, exceptional worldbuilding. A definitive modern “historical” epic.

Recommended.

EVERYTHING, EVERYWHERE, ALL AT ONCE (2022)

Just… wow.

There is so much going on here — a hurricane of full-sprint, gleeful weirdness. It’s incredible. It might be your new favourite movie.

It’s like The Matrix, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Being John Malkovich and Rick & Morty conspired to make something that even all that hyperbole can’t accurately describe. It 100% lives up to it’s title, and twists your expectations at every turn.

I think we’re done with multiverse movies after this. The upcoming Doctor Strange promises a lot, but you truly have to see what this film achieves with a fraction of that budget. Even on a purely practical and technical level it’s playing eight-dimensional chess.

Complete joy, wonder, raw emotion and hysterical laughter. What an absolute masterwork of cinematic lunacy.

Highly, highly recommended.

THE ADAM PROJECT (2022)

Above average family action film, but never quite rises to truly exceptional.

All the individual elements are well done: the cast is charismatic, the VFX are top notch. But there’s something in Shawn Levy’s execution, same as with Free Guy… they’re kinda flat?

A bit too polished and clean, so that all the real quirk and personality has been buffed out of them. They feel like products. Products with heart and charm, sure, but never truly unique enough in their own rights to elevate them above pretty good.

My hope is that having the Molyneux sisters (Bob’s Burgers) handling the script and Kevin Feige doing his Marvel overlord thing, the next Levy/Reynolds collab on Deadpool 3 will really click.

As for The Adam Project, it won’t stick with me longer than the next big action film I see.

THE BATMAN (2022)

This might be the best cinematic incarnation of Batman ever. More Noir crime thriller in the vein of se7en or Zodiac than your standard action blockbuster fare.

That’s likely to turn some people off it, but when that Batmobile roars to life like a godsdamned demon or The Bat walks down a black hallway lit by only the gunshots of the goons he’s taking on, it’s hard not to pick up what it’s putting down.

Pattinson’s Bat is brooding and serious, but he also recognizes he is supposed to help people. He’s also a brilliant detective — something often overlooked in favour of grander spectacle. The Batman takes place almost exclusively at night, over the span of about a week on the trail of a serial killer loose in Gotham City. It’s long and it’s slow and it’s deliberate.

The city itself feels like a strange hybrid of not quite New York, not quite Chicago, all gothic architecture and constant, miserable rain.

The Batsuit, Batmobile and all his detective gadgets all have a handmade, reappropriated feel that really adds to the grounded tone.

Soundtrack is great. Performances are all excellent. Cinematography is understated, but frequently impressive.

Could probably have been trimmed down a bit, since the final act feels a bit superfluous after a big string of satisfying resolutions, and there’s an unnecessary cameo right by the end that feels like a studio note.

Still, this feels like an absolute step in the right direction. Doesn’t quite have the big punch of the Nolan films, but I actually kind of prefer this style. Very, very promising for sequels.

Highly recommended.

PEACEMAKER // s01 (2021)

James Gunn has an inimitable talent for elevating rejects and burnouts into some of the most compelling, complex characters in modern pulp fiction.

Even indicental characters get more development than half the leads of modern blockbusters, in a mix of deep pathos and hilarious irreverence.

Peacemaker is no different — an anti-hero at his heart, John Cena brings a gravitas to this sad asshole that makes him much more fun than your standard comic fare.

Ultra-violent, frequently disturbing, and leaning into Gunn’s penchant for visceral body horror spliced with dark humour, it’s a wild ride and a tonne of fun.

If you liked the recent (and also excellent) The Suicide Squad, you’ll like this.

Recommended.

THE WITCHER // s02

Solid fantasy/action, benefitting from a more coherend (read: linear) arrangement of timelines than the first season.

Interesting spins on all sorts of legendary monsters give it a distinct and grounded flavour of high fantasy.

Cavill proves again he’s the perfect casting, and the love he has for the role oozes off the screen.

Nice to revisit painting the charater too, since the illustration I did for the first season kicked off the habit of adding them to reviews.

If you enjoyed the first season, you’ll enjoy this one. If you weren’t totally sold but thought it had potential, this season might change your mind.

Recommended.

THE MATRIX RESURRECTIONS (2021)

Sadly, no good.

Starts out interestingly enough, but the instant it becomes so meta that you expect it to elevate into something wild, it just… stops evolving.

The rest of the (very extensive) runtime is filled with dull exposition and mediocre action. Familiar characters return, with some of them swapped out for younger counterparts (with wobbly in-world explanations) since it seems unlikely Hugo Weaving or Lawrence Fishburne were going to get back into fighting shape for another go around the block.

Action films have come a long way since the original Matrix, and it’s disappointing that there’s nothing here that comes even remotely close. It’s unremarkably shot, and there’s not a single iconic setpiece, which is odd in a franchise that exploded to fame on the back of its iconic setpieces. We all thought, apparently foolishly, that the return of The Matrix meant some grand, mind-bending new evolution of action films again. Hell, Keanu’s still on his A-game with the John Wick franchise.

Instead, Resurrections chooses to go down this strangely self-aware and self-referential path, but then doesn’t really capitalise on the ideas at all. One of the earliest bits of dialogue in the film literally goes: Our parent company, Warner Media, was going to make another Matrix anyway, at least this way we get to do it on our terms.

Kind seems like “on our terms” meant taking everyone’s interest in the franchise out the back and shooting it.

Don’t bother.

COWBOY BEBOP (2021)

It’s not bad!

Look, it’s missing a bit of the punch and slickness of editing and action that made the anime series so memorable, but the cast is great, the soundtrack bops and it’s mostly a fun, silly scifi romp.

Not without its criticisms, however. The extension of the villain’s story does little to establish him as a credible threat, and some of the VFX look very unfinished. Action can be kind of stitled, which is a shame because it has glimmers of real creativity and excellence that shine through and unfortunately serve to highlight the flaws.

But mostly the characterisations are fun, albiet slightly different takes to the original. If you want slavish dedication to the source material, just rewatch the anime. The prime three (John Cho, Daniella Pineda and Mustafa Shakir) are all totally on point for this interpretation.

My main disappointment was that the show didn’t adhere to the brilliant sylisation of the promotional segments, or at least leaned harder into some kind of hyper-realism to make it pop. That could have been truly special.

If you’re willing to take this on its own terms, it’s a totally serviceable space action adventure.

Good, not great.